Speaking at a partnership working event organised by PACEY, Sam Gyimah, said, ‘We do need to address the issue of information sharing, especially where a child could be accessing the 30 hours in probably more than two settings. We’re going to be publishing a consultation subsequent to the Childcare Act around how information sharing can work.’
The Department for Education confirmed that a consultation on information sharing will be launched this year and promised more communication in due course.
The Childcare Act 2016 became law on 16 March making 30 hours of free childcare for working parents of three- and four-year-olds a legal right.
‘Another thing to look at is also best practice of information sharing as we go through the early implementer phases later this year,’ Mr Gyimah added. ‘To see what actually works and involving Ofsted in that, so looking at what information needs to be shared and how easy do you make it. Because if you are looking after a child from say 5pm until 7pm and early in the morning before school or nursery what information do you need to hold on to there, versus what the school or nursery has.
‘So we’ll look at it during the consultation but also in the early implementer stage to see what best practices there are, and publish our findings on that basis.’
Freedom of Information Request
Mr Gyimah also responded to delegates' questions about the Pre-school Learning Alliance’s Freedom of Information request on the Childcare Costs review, which took place last year.
More than 2,000 providers submitted data to the funding consultation, yet key parts of the research conducted by Deloitte Consulting were not published with the findings in November. The DfE says the information belongs to Deloitte because they created it.
The surveys and interviews Deloitte conducted were intended to inform average cost hours, staff-to-child ratios and training costs.
Tricia Wellings, chief executive of Bright Kids Nursery group, asked, ‘How much is the Government actually listening when we’ve heard in the last couple of days about the Freedom of Information request from the PLA in respect to the consultation last summer, that the DfE don’t actually have this information. The DfE are not referring to it, they are referring to a document from 2012 related to what it costs to deliver good quality early years childcare in this day and age. And I think, that looking forward at the increases in the National Living Wage, which hasn’t been mentioned at all, how is the funding going to be linked to that?’
Mr Gyimah responded, ‘We have acknowledged there is a funding issue and we’ve increased the funding, I call that listening. We are now going to consult on how to allocate it. Now there is a specific FoI request which is relating to Deloitte and the advice and work that they did. Now that is the property of Deloitte consulting, that is why we don’t have the information to make it available.’
Addressing concerns about the National Living Wage, the minister told delegates to wait until after the consultation on the Early Years National Funding Formula, saying, ‘Let’s see where the actual rates are rather than second guess that the numbers are all going to be terrible. The figures are based on your own data that you gave us.’
How schools, nurseries and childminders can best work together remained the key discussion of the day.
Speaking on the subject during his Q&A, Mr Gyimah, said that partnership can be best achieved where local authorities act as ‘the ringmasters’ to drive it forward.
He said, ‘We need schools and nursery schools to work with childminders and PVIs. It’s not just because of the 30 hours, it’s because parents don’t think in terms of silos, parents want to stitch together a childcare solution that works for them.
‘And where I’ve seen this work especially well is where the local authority steps in and acts the part of the ringmaster in terms of driving this forward. In York for example, there is a database of childminders and when you select your school nursery you can also select a childminder and that can help you complete the number of hours you want in a day.
‘What we’ll be looking to do is work with local authorities to get them to help drive this forward rather than have every individual childminder on their own trying to work with parents. If we can create a system-wide approach that would help much better in driving much needed partnership.’
Other speakers and panel members included Judy Shaw, headteacher of Tuel Lane Infant and Nursery School in Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire, Ruth Pimentel, chief executive officer at Toad Hall Nursery Group, Sarah Lambert, Senior Manager for Early Years and Family Support in Blackpool, and Julian Grenier, headteacher at Sheringham Nursery School and Children’s Centre in London.
Mr Grenier’s speech about creating deeper foundations to make education ‘one continuous journey’ was very well received by delegates.
When talking about the transition from early years to school in his setting he used the analogy of both hands holding on to a baton in a relay race rather than simply passing it on – or even dropping it in some cases – and called for providers to work outside of silos, via ‘partnership, trust, communication and branding, and building parental confidence.’